[ 12. Jun 2001 ]

Tarom - the role of the Romanian Airline in Germany"s deportation policy

Anything but a single case


Achmed was in deportation detention in Kassel for three weeks, before he was collected very early on a Tuesday morning and transported to Düsseldorf airport, his hands tied behind his back during the whole journey. There, the Central migration police (BGS) locked him up in a big hall where two dozen people were already waiting and more continued to arrive during the following hours. There was a family and three young men from Romania, two from Lebanon and about 50 were Turkish nationals.

Among these were men who had already been in jail for several years and were rather glad to be deported on half of their time. Then there were people like himself who were in deportation prison for weeks or even months because of missing residence permits. There were also three families with small children who were pounced upon in their hostels in the early hours of the morning, arrested and taken to Düsseldorf. One family was totally in despair, they had no money, mother and children cried the whole time. Achmed was more than surprised as one of the Turkish men took the initiative and collected about DM 300.00 from all the deportees for this poor family. It is almost unbelievable that in spite of the highly tense atmosphere shortly before deportation and the random line-up of the group, such solidarity was achieved.

At around 3.30 p.m., after Achmed had been locked up in the hall for more than 5 hours, the door was opened. A plane waited. About 30 central migration police (BGS) formed a double row from the exit of the hall to the entrance of a bus. Some metres away were more central migration police (BGS) armed with submachine guns. The message was clear: No chance to escape. The bus took the almost 60 deportees to the plane, same scenario - a double row of central migration police (BGS), plenty of racist "good bye"s" before the deportees disappeared inside the plane of the Romanian
Airline Tarom.

Inside the plane the Romanian security men seemed friendly, but there was nothing to eat. About two hours later at Bucharest airport, everybody had to disembark, escorted by heavily armed Romanian police the Turkish nationals were locked up in a big hall. The Romanians and Lebanese were taken away in different directions. Another hour of waiting in the hall.
Communication with the Romanian police was impossible. No food. Even the request for a telephone call to Turkey was denied. The second flight was shorter. At about 8 p.m. the plane with the deportees landed in Istanbul where questioning and interrogation began...

Apart from the man"s name not being Achmed, the report states almost accurately the kind of ordeal, as previously described in an interview, that refugees and migrants have to go through every week. Regularly, every Tuesday, such a charter deportation leaves Düsseldorf for Bucharest and often continues to Istanbul, Beirut, Amman.

During the last two to three years more than 10,000 people were thus deported with the Romanian airline Tarom.

New Deportation Strategies

The wording of the official report dated May 2000 is very clear: "If violent resistance is expected during deportations, the use of small charter planes (so-called Lear-Jets) and mass repatriations will be increased. " The German interior ministers especially formed a team of secretaries of state with instructions to work out suggestions "for the elimination of problems during deportation". Their recommendation might have forced the activities performed for years now with an almost criminal energy by the central migration police (BGS) Koblenz who are the specialists for deportations: to deport small and larger groups of "potentially troublesome" refugees and migrants without any public notice - whatever the cost.

The strategy was altered because of the increasing difficulties the
"professional deportation services" are confronted with since the death of Aamir Ageeb in May 1999. More often pilots of scheduled flights refuse to take unwilling passengers on board. The campaigns against the airlines, in Germany especially against Lufthansa, have done the rest, so that "problematic deportations" now require special measures.

Tarom"s Deportation Service

Tarom"s services fit well in more than one aspect into this context:
? Regularly every Tuesday a Tarom plane with 30 to 80 so-called deportees starts from Düsseldorf airport.
? Tarom employs its own security personnel. They take care of the deportees at the plane"s entrance and in case of resistance they are equipped with electric shock devices.
? Tarom does not only transport Romanian nationals but
mostly Turkish nationals, often Kurds and also Lebanese nationals.

Tarom is anything but a newcomer to the deportation business. Since the pilot repatriation treaty concluded between Romania and Germany in September 1992, Romanians who are arrested crossing the Eastern border, are taken from Berlin airport schönefeld to Bucharest by Tarom. At the end of 1994 it became known that in the framework of the meanwhile established carrier sanctions Tarom returns people of all continents to Bucharest. At Otopeni Airport they operate a kind of detention centre. There the deportees remain locked up, until they are forwarded to their supposed home countries.

As described in the current case above, after arriving from Germany the Turkish and Kurdish "deportees in transit" are imprisoned in a heavily guarded hall at Otopeni Airport until they are transported with a second plane to Istanbul.

Tarom, therefore, offers an all-round deportation service which is based on a special transportation contract with North Rhine-Westphalia regarding the weekly Tuesday flights. Planning and co-ordination of the mass repatriations are partly the responsibility of the district government Düsseldorf. But also the central migration police (BGS) headquarter Koblenz admitted at least "arrangements" with Tarom. The central migration police (BGS) surely is highly interested in that co-operation. After the deportees are inside the Tarom plane, the central migration police (BGS) do not get their hands dirty in cases of mass deportations. Tarom"s security men take over that job, if necessary even using electric shock devices as became known in 1999.

On 11 May 1999, the Kurdish refugee Fercent Ucar had his hands and feet tied, was beaten and supposedly tranquillised by the central migration police (BGS) even on the way to the airport. During the whole flight Mr. Ucar remained tied up, he was beaten again and maltreated with an electric shock device. According to official statements, Tarom claimed that it was not possible "to calm down the troublesome Mr. U., to avoid an emergency landing and to restore security and order, the electric shock device was used once". In a further meeting with representatives from UNHCR in Bucharest the Tarom management confirmed that three electric shock devices are taken along on every deportation flight.

The 1999 deportation figures of Düsseldorf airport showed a rapid increase. According to official statistics most of the 4,355 deportees were "accompanied" - by "private security personnel" in fact. This development is mainly based on the mass deportations through Tarom. Taking the weekly figures of 30 to 80 deportees as a basis, makes up a yearly figure of 2,500 to 3,000 deportations from Düsseldorf alone: this is most certainly the largest and most profitable item of Tarom"s deportation business. In addition, there are deportations from all over Germany through Tarom, some are even destined for Nigeria or Sri Lanka.

Moreover Tarom tried to conclude further deportation agreements with the German authorities, at the end of 1999 deportations to Kongo were definitely discussed.

Deportation Class Campaign against Tarom?!

Tarom, short for Romanian Air Transport, reports enormous growth figures. Meanwhile more than a million passengers are yearly
transported on international and national routes through this state-run Romanian airline (97% are owned by the ministry of transport). Tarom aims for the business traveller rather than the Black Sea tourist. Since 1990 it is orientated towards the constant growing East-West-Market "with the Eastern business centre Bucharest".

Last year Tarom was admitted to the Association of European Airlines (AEA) as their 28th member and is now obviously trying to get rid of its "dirty" image. Tarom receives EU-money and co-operates with Lufthansa in consulting programmes. They rely on Western jets for their fleet of now 21 planes. "Comfort, Safety and Style" are emphasised and frequent travellers can expect "Smart Miles" benefits.

In their magazine "Insight" Tarom celebrates the "dialogue" with their
passengers. There is not yet an e-mail address but a website exists:

Tarom has offices in Berlin, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf and agencies in Munich and Stuttgart. Besides the Tuesday charter flights from
Düsseldorf are predictable.

There are, therefore, quite a few links for initial actions and all in all it might be worthwhile to threaten the up-and-coming company Tarom with a "dirty image" campaign, if they do not give up their role in the deportation alliance.